Album Review: Neil Cowley Trio – The Face of Mount Molehill

Vincent Coole 13 March 2012

Neil Cowley Trio – The Face of Mount Molehill

(Naim Jazz, February 2012)

2/5

Track to download: Lament

Session pianist extraordinaire Neil Cowley now has a press release that can boast a credit on Adele’s platinum selling 21, thus becoming ‘the most listened to pianist on the planet’. Take away the star singer and you’re pretty much left with The Face of Mount Molehill: a blend of string syrup, jazzy quirk and, on its better moments, Spinal Tap’s ‘A Jazz Odyssey’.

In essence, Cowley is a contemporary Herbie Hancock or Dave Brubeck minus any real experimentation or incorporation of genre. A string ensemble has been brought and works very effectively on the poignant opener ‘Lament’, and sporadically elsewhere. Other than that the trio stick to what they know – apart from the strange witch-baby chortle loop on ‘Mini Ha Ha’. This quirkiness, along with the swagger of single ‘Rooster was a Witness’, goes someway to demonstrate the Neil Cowley Trio’s humour and live showmanship. However, this is not translated particularly well on many of the record’s over-earnest by-numbers which sound like ambitious backing-tracks crying out for the vocal melody they most desperately need.

The feel of a jazz trio enjoying some camaraderie does emerge towards the end with a feature of a drum solo (acceptable in Jazz) and fun rhythm shifts and piano virtuosity on ‘La Porte’. Yet, ultimately, The Face of Mount Molehill serves to compliment the live shows, and while recommending the talent (and fun) the trio have, the record does little in the way of pronouncing its own authority as an interesting album.

Vincent Coole